History sees the ancient Greek city-state of Sparta as a warrior society that was once the dominant civilization in its era. Comic books and movies have romanticized their heroics in stories such as the 300 Spartans against the vast Persian army. However, these accounts rarely depict the hypocrisies and negative aspects of Spartan society. Kieron Gillen’s Three series attempts to remedy this lack of information. Through the eyes of three Helot slaves on the run in Sparta, Three brings to light the many failings of Spartan life and what led to its downfall.
A great story full of authentic historical references
Well-defined characters and themes
Artwork is not as gory as some other comic depictions of Sparta
Unnecessary naming labels throughout panels
Previously in Three: Klaros is a crippled Helot slave living in a small village in Sparta. While he is working, Terpander, the local storyteller, taunts him in front of Damar, a fellow Helot and widow. That night, an Ephor with a group of Spartans pay a visit to Klaros’s village. After humiliating the Helot men by forcing them drink pure wine, the Spartans order a drunken Terpander to tell a story to amuse them. He chooses a story about Arimnestos, a Spartan who fought the Persians but was eventually killed during a Helot revolt. This story displeases the Ephor as he orders the entire village slaughtered.
THE HUNT FOR THREE SLAVES
Kieron Gillen’s story about three Helot slaves on the run from Sparta continues with Three #2. Klaros fights back at the Ephor and his Spartans, and manages to kill them before escaping the village with Damar and Terpander. Meanwhile, news of the Ephor’s death at the hand of Helot slaves spreads to Sparta. The other Ephors decide to send Spartan troops to hunt down the three slaves, even though the Spartan king, Kleomenes II, disagrees with the decision. While the first issue introduces the Helots and their place in society, Three #2 looks into Spartan society and politics. Kieron Gillen’s display of Spartan life in Three shows he did a great deal of research into its history. All of these historical aspects of Three pay off, giving the comic book a strong feeling of historical realism. Klaros is an excellent conflicted character. At first he is hesitant to help his fellow Helots, relying in his instinct to survive. However, he changes his mind and finds the courage to confront his oppressors, even if it means risking his own life. The theme of survival is not only depicted by the surviving Helots on the run but also within Sparta. In order for their society to survive, the Ephors believe they need to hunt down the Helot slaves before the news spreads throughout Greece, making Sparta look weak to the other city-states. I like how the writer draws parallels of survival between the slaves and Spartan society. It shows how cruel ancient society can be compared to modern times. Similar to the first issue, Kieron Gillen adds an excerpt at the end of Three #3, an interview with Professor Stephen Hodgkinson, historical consultant for Three. It is a nice read and gives a better insight to the history behind the story.
DISTINGUISHABLE CHARACTERS AND HISTORICAL SCENERY
Ryan Kelly provides very graphic and violent artwork in Three #2. The panels where the Spartans slaughter the Helot villagers provide a malicious tone to the overall comic. Although it lacks gory details, the violence is done tastefully enough to get its horrific messages across to the reader. The artist does an excellent job distinguishing one character from another through detail and distinct design. This make the names in the panels that help identify each character completely unnecessary. The scenery of the Helot village and Sparta also add an authenticity to the comic. The comic brings you to a time of great advancement in knowledge and philosophy while witnessing the barbaric nature of humanity.
BOTTOM LINE: A GREAT SATIRICAL COMIC
Kieron Gillen and Ryan Kelly shun the positives of Sparta and reveal the ugly truth behind its society through their comic series Three. Kieron Gillen pens an excellent story of survival where the reader can relive Sparta’s history through Three’s characters. Ryan Kelly’s detailed artwork supports the plot by capturing the essence of ancient Spartan scenery, clothing and style. It is a great historical piece riddled with satire.